Southeast Green - Business depends on the environment and the environment depends on business

FoodShed Planet

eclectic food for thought by "Sustainable Pattie" Baker
  1. If I Learned Anything
    photo credit: Chip Franzoni
    If I learned anything while writing Traveling at the Speed of Bike (besides trust the journey), it’s that there is validity in every person’s lived experience and there is value in sharing it. This is my story (although I think you will find yourself in there as well). I hope it proves helpful.

    Table of Contents:

    Prologue: What a Feeling
    Chapter 1: A Time Machine 
    Chapter 2: The Bike in the Attic 
    Chapter 3: Pedaling as Fast as I Can 
    Chapter 4: Elsewhere 
    Chapter 5: Precious, Repeatable Gift 
    Chapter 6: Noodle Lady 
    Chapter 7: It Feels Like Magic 
    Chapter 8: The Map on the Wall 
    Chapter 9: Hipster
    Chapter 10: Your Turn 

    Projected publication date is early May 2018. In the meantime, I invite you to share your lived experiences on Twitter and Instagram tagged with #TravelingAtTheSpeedOfBike.

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  2. Coming Full Circle
    My co-teacher and I have taught  helmet fit, ABC Quick Check, basic trike handling, scanning, signals, turns,  rules of the road, and numerous road hazard avoidance techniques and tips to our seniors-on-trikes students, and all students made it up and down a big hill today while practicing gear shifting. One student (a terrific Vietnam vet from Brooklyn) may be asking his family for a trike for Father’s Day. We have 2 weeks left in this session and have still to work on some group riding and trail riding skills while building endurance and reinforcing already-taught skills. We then take a break until Fall, when there will be September and October sessions (each 4 weeks). Sign up in August at Decatur Active Living

    Plus, there are two more bike rodeos for kids coming up in the fall, as well as another possible Earn-a-Bike session for youth in need. There is also talk of some bike-riding-for-adults classes as well in the Fall — I will update you as we get closer.

    This is a paid encore-career job for me and I am very grateful to the City of Decatur ( a League of American Bicyclists certified Bronze-level Bike Friendly Community and Platinum Atlanta Regional Commission Green Community) for valuing bike skills education for its citizens, and for entrusting me with that responsibility. Considering that I was the one who wrote the Commute Options series of brochures for ARC for the Centennial Olympic Games over 20 years ago to encourage more biking and other non-car options (in my other career as a communications professional), this feels like I’ve come full-circle.

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  3. Peace, and More

    While Traveling at the Speed of Bike yesterday, I came upon moms with babies walking past men-in-camouflage with rifles who were having a protest in the midst of a counterprotest. 

    Then, as a counterbalance,  I saw a new mural with a simple word — peace– that grounded me again. 

    Shortly afterwards I encountered a row of volunteers sitting with passersby who wanted someone to just listen. Every seat was taken. 

    My streamers flying in the wind, I continued pedaling my way through the competing cacophony and calm of the day.

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  
    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  4. What a Feeling (Prologue to Traveling at the Speed of Bike)
    Me on Pittsburgh's bikeshare
    Some people pretend they're Elliott in the Spielberg classic ET when they ride their bikes. Some start speaking Italian like the guy who wants to be a famous racing cyclist in Breaking Away, and some just plod along channeling their inner Kermit the Frog from The Muppet Movie. Me? I go solidly for Jennifer Beals as Alex in that 1983 crowdpleaser, Flashdance.

    If you haven't watched the movie in awhile, I'm sorry to say it's not as good as you may remember (although the desire to start ripping up sweatshirts and wear leggings again will be as great as ever). And contrary to what some folks may think, Pittsburgh is no longer a steelworkers' town ( I know because my older daughter just graduated from college there). But Alex and her bike are basically inseparable and the appeal of that relationship is pretty darn timeless. Here -- take a look (okay, fine, it's just really the first minute, but I challenge you to stop watching the rest):

    I don't have Jennifer Beals' hair or body or dancing ability (however much I pretend I do), but I share her feeling. There's not a time when I swing my leg over my bike (or use bikeshare in Pittsburgh, pictured above) and settle into the seat and pedals and handlebars like they're extensions of myself that I don't think of Alex. And when she flies in the air during that dance audition? That's me with wings when I ride. 

    Maybe you feel that way, too (or you'd like to). Or maybe there's another reference you keep in mind -- many women harbor a secret "I'm actually in Paris" fantasy, right down to the flowers in their front basket. I had lost my Flashdance feeling for a lot of years, but I thankfully got it back (you'll find out how in chapter 2). If you haven't ridden your bike in a number of years, I'm hoping I can help you get back in the saddle again, too, and connect you with the girl you used to be and the continually-amazing woman you are always becoming.

    This book is technically a memoir, but it's not just my story. It's yours, too, because a bigger part of Traveling at the Speed of Bike is our connection through an ongoing social media conversation. If you think of something from your past or you experience something now that relates to what you're reading, consider sharing it, tagged #TravelingAtTheSpeedOfBike. (And considering that the book isn't even published yet, why not just post and tag anytime you feel that overwhelming joy we all remember while riding our bikes?) You don't even have to wear a ripped sweatshirt and leg warmers while singing What a Feeling -- but why not, right? 

    Here -- I'll give you the lyrics. Sing your heart out. Sing from the top of your lungs and the bottom of your soul. Take your passion and make it happen! Then, let's start Traveling at the Speed of Bike together.
    Flashdance...What A Feeling
    First when there's nothing
    But a slow glowing dream
    That your fear seems to hide
    Deep inside your mind
    All alone I have cried
    Silent tears full of pride
    In a world made of steel
    Made of stone
    Well, I hear the music
    Close my eyes, feel the rhythm
    Wrap around
    Take a hold of my heart
    What a feeling
    Bein's believin'
    I can have it all
    Now I'm dancing for my life
    Take your passion
    And make it happen
    Pictures come alive
    You can dance right through your life
    Now I hear the music
    Close my eyes, I am rhythm
    In a flash
    It takes hold of my heart
    What a feeling
    Bein's believin'
    I can have it all
    Now I'm dancing for my life
    Take your passion
    And make it happen
    Pictures come alive
    You can dance right through your life
    What a feeling

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  5. Public Piano Concert to Come?
    Mr. Lester this week
    So I ran into a man playing a public piano at the Arts Center MARTA transit station, right in the shadow of the Atlanta Symphony's performance space at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta in the United States, whom I hadn't seen since last summer. As I approached, I exclaimed, "Mr. Lester!" He had sunglasses on, as usual, and I didn't notice the tears in his eyes until I got closer, until we talked and he took them off, until he told me that he considers himself to be a nobody and that he doesn't even know where his next meal is coming from and then out of nowhere I showed up and remembered him and said his name. 
    Mr. Lester last summer

    He had me pull up one of the colorful chairs in the newly redesigned "Front Porch" plaza where MARTA is encouraging more hanging out and interactions among strangers. He played me three songs, including a beautiful one he wrote. He told me how one day he was playing when suddenly someone started playing along with him and he looked up to discover a famous recording artist. That made him feel really good.

    We talked and talked and talked. I consider our conversation private so I won't give any more details. I'll just tell you this: I have come across so many men (in particular) who seem to be homeless who have more musical talent in their pinky finger than I have in my whole body. These public pianos give them access to equipment they simply could not access otherwise. And their extraordinarily beautiful expressions of art have the potential to heal and to help not just themselves but others. In fact, read what happened to a man who was homeless in Sarasota, Florida, one year after he was discovered while playing a public piano.

    Public art crosses borders, ages, genders, ethnicities, socio-economic levels, sexual orientation, lifestyle choices, and political viewpoints. It inspires thought and provides multiple entry points into the human conversation, while letting each of us "take what we like and leave the rest" (as my mother always said to do).  I'm not saying shining a light on the homeless will change their lives (but it could). I'm just saying maybe it'll change the way others see them. Maybe it'll change the way we view the value, the necessity, the universality, of all types of art in our society. Maybe, just maybe, it'll make us all a bit better.

    (This would be updated w/the new silver card)
    And so, I got the obvious idea that wouldn't it be something if there could be a public piano concert, specifically featuring those in transient living conditions. Perhaps a famous recording star or two could help out. Perhaps a CD from the concert could help raise funds to be used to provide MARTA train/bus cards to those in need (maybe by reloading cards collected in a drop box at the airport from travelers who no longer need them -- see my Breeze to Share idea). Perhaps I could take photos and write short profiles* of any participant who is comfortable with that, and this could be displayed on "The Front Porch" so that they can be a celebrity for a little while, so that they can be "someone."

    I already contacted the Midtown Alliance and the local public piano organization (although they are not the ones who provided or manage this particular piano). They both would like to talk. All I have is a big idea and a willingness to help. Stay tuned to see what happens next.

    * Many of these men could be considered self-taught "folk artists" like the celebrated folk art (although with music) prominently displayed across the street at the High Museum of Art. For instance, Mr. Lester grew up in Louisiana and taught himself to play the piano in darkness, like Ray Charles.

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  
    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  6. All Because of Bikes

    It is almost a year since I first saw the ad to become a Bike Ambassador for the City of Decatur, GA. So much has happened since then -- here is a little collage of some the people I've taught as a League Cycling Instructor both in Decatur and in my private classes. My book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, is just about ready to send to a particular publisher where I think it (and I) might find a home. My daily rides here and there add up to a minimum of 100 miles a month, and I'm listening hard for callings on this journey as to what's next for me -- all because of bikes.

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  
    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  7. A Woman in a Wheelchair Rode a Trike
    She was fit and willing to try but she was in a wheelchair. Her personal trainer and Nik, my co-teacher of the adult tricycle (and other bike skills) classes in the City of Decatur, Georgia, had already helped her mount one of the red trikes on the walkways beneath towering, flowering magnolia trees but her ride was difficult because her foot has no feeling or control and impeded her ability to pedal. 

    I chatted with her a bit about her challenge and suddenly remembered Peggy. Peggy is the main character in my Young Adult novel, Spokesgirl, which is about an osteosarcoma survivor who learns to ride a unicycle and, as a result, changes her life and the lives of those around her. I had researched the possibility of a person with one leg riding a unicycle when I first got the idea after corresponding with a woman who had had bone cancer and lost her leg as a teen. This back-and-forth relationship happened about fifteen years ago because my older daughter and I started and ran a 501(c)3 nonprofit named Hattitudes that gave new hats to girls undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in six children's hospitals nationwide, and this woman wrote me a letter when she donated some hats after seeing a story about our effort in Parents magazine.

    That's a long way to say that I remembered how I got Peggy to ride that unicycle. The cute guy in the bike shop where she ended up one day strapped her prosthetic device to the pedal, thus enabling her remaining leg and foot to do all the work and simply lift the device along for the ride. I hadn't made this solution up -- I had found examples of others who had done this, albeit not with a unicycle but a bike.

    And so we grabbed a bungie cord. Nik constructed a double loop through the pedal, we all worked together to secure this woman's foot and make sure she was comfortable, and off she rode, hesitant at first but then increasingly confident. As she rounded the final corner, her shoulders relaxed and a smile exploded across her face. It was truly glorious.

    You know, in this crazy, hectic, scattered life, we learn a lot of things and we don't know if, when, or how things we have stored away on brain cells will be useful. I spent a year of my life researching and writing that book. Many, many years have passed. Not much has happened with the book. We've longed moved on from Hattitudes. But yesterday, none of that really mattered. All that mattered was that a woman in a wheelchair rode a trike, and a small group of people who had not long before been strangers shared her joy. 

    And that was plenty.

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  8. The Magnolias and the Tent
    I unlock my lone bike at the rack outside trendy Krog Street Market and wipe the puddle of freshly-fallen rain off the seat. I had just filled up my water bottle from a choice of chilled, unchilled, or sparking water after enjoying what's called a sabich for lunch from a place named Yalla where the guy at the counter asked my name and then if I spell Pattie with an "i" or a "y." I said it didn't matter because he would be saying it and it would sound the same anyway (and I didn't have the heart to tell him it's an "ie" -- there are enough complications in this crazy, mixed up world right now), and he thanked me for being easygoing (as if) and said that women named Sophie (or Sofie) apparently aren't. 

    Riding into the street, I go to the stop sign and make a left onto Irwin Street, passing construction of the next section of what I call Belty, which is a planned 22-mile live/work/play loop around Atlanta that holds the promise of connecting 45 distinct neighborhoods (but may just turn into one wealthy ring). I turn onto the first section of Belty and head downhill. I have the whole thing practically to myself in the gentle rain and I kick up my legs and laugh every time I fly at full speed through a puddle. A man in an orange raincoat smiles at me as he walks by.

    Within moments, the distinct and heady fragrance of magnolia fills the air and lulls me almost trance-like into a euphoria. Turning my neck from side to side, I see the magnolia trees tower over me seemingly everywhere. Every magnolia tree in the city has apparently gotten the memo that it is time to bloom. Punctuated by cantaloupe-sized flowers, their soft white pedals dangle like sandals off crossed-legged feet and their seeds spill open as if to say, Robert Herrick-like, to gather ye rosebuds while ye may; old time is still a flying; this same flower that smiles today; tomorrow will be dying . . .

    I stop to take a photo of my bike, Magic, perched on the edge of a cliff in front of one of the trees. The kickstand keeps sinking into the saturated mud and I keep readjusting it. Finally, realizing I am not going to get such a great photo in the rain, I turn to leave when suddenly I notice something through the branches and down the hill.

    It is a tent, or, rather, a Hefty bag or two strung up to a magnolia branch to form a teepee-like structure. There is an empty beverage can or two nearby, and a neat bag of trash or treasures (it is hard to tell), but other than that, it is an empty clearing. Or, rather, a clearing empty of anything other than a life being lived simply, in a place where many lives used to be lived simply but now is dominated by increasingly pricey apartments advertised as Come Live with Your Besties! Designer Faux Wood Flooring! Foodie Paradise!

    I step back to look at the magnolia tree from across the paved path, the office buildings and high-rise condos of Midtown visible in the distance. I had written a poem about a magnolia flower titled Spilling Open and I trip over memory to find its words.

    Magnolias are close to my heart. Although they are a classic Southern flower, I actually grew up with a flowering magnolia tree in my backyard in Mineola on Long Island in New York. It had multiple trunks all tangled together and was probably one-eightieth the size of the magnolia trees here in Atlanta. It was, in truth, a tree in the wrong place, stilted, as I often feel here. My heart has been aching for New York as if for a lost lover for years now. The last time I was in Mineola, I even started thinking I could actually go back to that little stop on the Long Island Rail Road, that it wouldn't even have to be Manhattan again. 

    But today I don't feel that way. Today I feel a purpose, a calling, in this moment, in this place my daughters call home. I breathe in the magnolia-scented air until it fills my lungs, emboldening me. I ride Magic past the enormous pinwheels made of metal in the exact spot where previously there had been ones made of yarn. I take cover under a bridge where murals have already changed and will change again. And I accept the weight of responsibility to tell this story, a story that I've told before in different ways but that needs telling again and again and again by those of us who are out there traveling at the speed of bike, noticing the nuances. 

    Today it is about the scent of a magnolia tree and a man in a tent beneath it who will one day most surely be gone. And I wonder if anyone will even notice it, the way an entire group of people were eliminated from the rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats -- or if they will just say how lovely the magnolias smell as they hang out with their Besties.

    If interested, this book of mine is specifically about what happens when lives collide on a city's new path forward:

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  9. Will They Know about This Man?
    Rod Pittman, age 88, with his peach tree experiment
    Will they know, years from now, that a world-renowned organic farmer stood here and planted four tiny peach tree saplings in public land where he asked for and received permission, in a row that had years earlier been used to teach middle schoolers how to grow food and that they are necessary? 

    Will they know the trees, all different varieties, were elevated and mounded up in expertly-crafted compost, only watered the day they were planted, treated several times a year with a powerful and proprietary compost tea, and were gorgeous and disease-free at the three-year point?

    Will they know that this man believed that after five years, he could prove commercial viability for organic peaches in hot and humid Georgia, where oak rot and other diseases impede organic peach tree growing, and in Florida, where additional diseases have already decimated the citrus crop? 

    Will they recognize that the knowledge gained from this small experiment could change the entire industry and could provide a healthy peach option to those trying to avoid the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables most toxic to consume, where non-organic peaches are #1? 

    Will they know that commercial farmers were lining up from day one, and especially after the first peaches appeared in year three, to find out what he discovered?

    Will they also know that this man helped start the largest volunteer-run community garden in the state of Georgia, right here in this park, that he gifted the community with a perennial bed of asparagus right after his 80th birthday, and that almost everything good about what was an unloved, unused piece of land had his hands in it?

    Will they appreciate that he was the first one up the pear tree in the center of this city the first of many years when 600 pounds of fruit was harvested in a mere half hour for local food pantries?

    Will they realize that this national treasure, after a career on farms in California, was the farm consultant at what is arguably the largest certified organic farm in the state of Georgia, where he delivered daily miracles including a shocking return-on-investment in turmeric harvests and sales, and that he changed the course of history at farms all over the world? 

    Will they remember that a new master plan for this park that called for an open playing field in this very spot didn't recognize the existence of this project at all but could be compatible with it? 

    Will they one day sit at a picnic table beneath a stand of trees laden with fuzzy, blushed peaches (surrounded by heirloom sorghum that enhances the soil biology and provides a food source to birds) on the edge of the ball field and give thanks to a man they never knew and a city that saved his legacy?

    Will they even care that a man stood here and made a measurable difference?

    If interested, see the rest of my articles in my recent series about Rod Pittman:
    To Be Sure His Voice Is Heard

    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
  10. Openhearted

    My older daughter, now recently graduated from college, leaped openhearted once more into the unknown this week in the same spot (although the art has changed) where she leaped four years ago on the day before first leaving for college. She is far beyond Roots and Wings at this point, and the world needs her goodness more than ever now. She has now left home to find her way. My heart is breaking yet swelled with pride.

    Godspeed, my love. Your singularly unrepeatable journey awaits you.

    If interested, see my author page on Amazon.  
    learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)

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